THE POINT OF DIMINISHING IMMERSIVE RETURN; IMPLICATIONS FOR SIMULATION-BASED TRAINING
C.S. Morris* Laboratory for Applied Sensory Engagement Research (LASER) University of Central Florida Orlando, FL 32816 H.C.N. Ganey J. Ross University of Central Florida Orlando, FL 32816 P.A. Hancock University of Central Florida Institute for Simulation and Training Orlando, Fl 32816 ABSTRACT While effective soldier training is enhanced by practice (Salas, & Cannon-Bowers, 2001), stress-exposure (Johnston, & Cannon-Bowers, 1996), and context, the extent to which simulated practice conditions must replicate the operational environment setting been questioned (Morris, Shirkey, Hancock, & Mouloua 2002). All of the features of advanced training technologies (e.g., graphical quality, haptic quality, motion base, surround sound and other aspects noted to foster Immersion) may not be necessary for effective training. The most recent technological advances in environmental fidelity may actually extend beyond the point of diminishing returns for obtaining optimal human reaction. This contention is supported by several empirical evaluations, neurological evidence, and cognitive fundamentals, all of which suggest that humans effortlessly employ a cognitive “immersive-fill” when appropriate conditions are present. 1. INTRODUCTION 1.1 Advanced Technologies and Soldier Training The effectiveness of the objective force relies heavily on the acceptance of discoveries growing out of supported research. Concurrently, technological advances are occurring at a rapid rate and researchers in the field of training and technology-human interaction are attempting to integrate both the behavioral and technological advances. The progress made in training theory, conditions of training, training delivery strategies, training effectiveness, and transfer is now evident in the multiple models that now exist. It is evident now that not all the characteristics fostering immersion and effective training rely on technology, but more so the strategic incorporation and interactions of context, motivations, content, and cognitive immersive-fill strategies. 1.2 Cognitive fundamentals: Evidence for immersivefill In the early 1900’s Psychologists such as Wundt and Tichener studied human behavior through experimental manipulations. Along with this process came the need for researchers to develop false realities for the specific purpose of subjecting humans to alternative situations and understanding their finite responses within them. These efforts have resulted in vast knowledge about the control, use, application, and human reactions to various elements that make up altered realities. A common question has been; “at what point can the setting or environmental condition fulfill that of its real world counterpart?” Kantowitz describes the 3 main elements to an experimental situation as setting representativeness (the physical realism or immersive properties), subject (or person) representativeness, and variable representativeness (Kantowitz, 1988). He and many others have demonstrated that “setting representativeness” is overrated and that generalizability of the behavior in the false reality to the real world situation is dependant more-so on the compatibility of psychological processes and not the improvements in realism. Research has consistently shown that humans naturally enrich and utilize impoverished information. For example, Johannson, (1973), as cited in Chignell, Hancock, & Takeshita, (1999) discussed research on perceived biological movement where in darkness small lights are placed on a humans joints only. Individuals can distinguish exact movements as well as and male verses female movements by seeing a few small lights only. Neurological mechanisms for this include directionally sensitive neurons in area MT, a region in the visual
cortex, which responds identically irrespective of the shape that is moving. A subsystem exists for encoding motion relations in parallel and separate from the subsystem for preprocessing visual form. Similarly, Crick & Koch, (1997), as cited in Chignell et. al., (1999) describe how humans fill-in by making inferences (e.g., viewing the back of person, we know that they have a face). Moreover each facial feature activates different parts of the brain so our perception relies solely on the fill and integration of separate bits and pieces of information. Schacter, (1996), as cited in Chignell et. al., (1999) described that sensory info (smell, sight etc) about specific memories are stored in different regions of the brain and integrated in a central brain structure. Human memory then is constructive, not based on the external environment but on meaningful simple cues to assimilate a percept. Additionally, people tend to be imaginative and they frequently prefer to construct their own image of a story (e.g., a novel) rather than watch a film director’s interpretation. The level of fidelity and realism may not be essential for reproducing real world behaviors in the lab likewise, reproducing the real world in the lab may not be necessary for training and practice. 1.2 Comparing technologies: Evidence for immersivefill There are relatively few studies that compare the differences between types of technologies and degree of immersion experienced. Botella et al., (1999) found no differences when comparing subject’s sense of immersion in two expectedly differing conditions. In one condition, participants performed a task in a high-impact graphics workstation with a high quality head mounted display (HMD). The other condition used a low graphics/quality HMD with 2-D joystick. Results indicated no statistical differences on dependant variables of presence or reality judgment between the two conditions. From the field of clinical psychology, Weiderhold, & Wiederhold (2000) investigated the efficacy of Virtual Reality experience for overcoming phobia versus imaginal therapy (using one’s imagination only). Unexpectedly, the subjects who used the advanced virtual reality system did not differ on physiological indices of immersion and treatment efficacy from those who used imagery to produce the experience of flying. Other findings from Weiderhold, & Wiederhold, (2000) revealed physiological changes associated with level of self-reported immersion. Based on this some would argue that advances in system features would cause greater levels of immersion. We suggest alternatively that the result represents an individual’s immersive-fill (a function of motivation, interest, directed energy, and context). With respect to US military soldiers, it is expected that their mentalistic requirements for immersion are intact. For those who lack motivation to train, alternative contextual strategies have been shown to enhance
immersion such as the element of “game” which fosters motivation to succeed and can be relatively easy to facilitate as well as inexpensive (e.g. Morris, Hancock, Shirkey, & Mouloua, 2002). In sum, while advanced simulations may “aid” in the process of human immersion, the variance associated with degree of immersion has repeatedly been shown to be predominantly a function of individual responsiveness to cues and characteristics of the environment, not associated with fidelity or a replicated reality. As technologies advance so too does the human’s reliance on them. A strategic facet of future soldiers will be their ability to adapt to novel situations with minimal information and naturally apply context for effective performance. REFERENCES Botella, C., Rey, A., Perpina, C. Banos, R., Alcaniz, M., Garcia-Palacios, A., Villa, H., & Alozano, J. (1999). Differences on presence and reality judgment using high impact workstation and a PC workstation. Cyberpsychology & Behavior, 2, 4952. Chignell, M., Hancock, P.A., & Takeshita, H. (1999). Human-computer interaction: The psychology of augmented human behavior. In P.A. Hancock, (Ed) Human performance and ergonomics (pp 291328), Academic Press Inc. Johnston, J.H., & Cannon-Bowers, J. (1996). Training for stress exposure. In J.E. Driskell and E. Salas (Eds). Stress and human performance. (pp 223-256). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum Kantowitz, B. H. (1992). Selecting measures for human factors research. Human Factors, 34(4), 387-398. Morris, C.S., Shirkey, E.C., Hancock, P.A., & Mouloua, M. (2002). The effects of context relevant stress on game-based training. Presented to the American Psychological Association, Chicago, IL. Salas, E. & Cannon-Bowers, J.A. (2000). The anatomy of team training. In S. Tobias, & J.D. Fletcher (Eds.).Training and Retraining: A Handbook for Business, Industry, Government, and the Military. (pp 312-335). Macmillan Reference, USA. Weiderhold, B.K., & Weiderhold, M.D. (2000). Lessons learned from 600 virtual reality sessions. Cyberpsychology & Behavior, 3, 393-400. ACKNOWLEDGEMENT The views expressed in this work are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect official Army policy. This work was supported by the DoD Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) program administered by the Army Research Office under grant DAAD19-01-1-0621. Dr. P.A. Hancock is the Principal Investigator.